Book Review

ARC Book Review & Blog Tour: For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa

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The Ripped Bodice (signed copies) || Bookshop.org || B&N || Amazon

Rating: ★★★★
Audience: Contemporary Romance
Length: 368 pages
Author: Erin La Rosa
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: July 27th, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

They go together like water and oil…

All chef Nina Lyon wants is to make a name for herself in the culinary world and inspire young women everywhere to do the same. For too long, she’s been held back and underestimated by the male-dominated sphere of professional kitchens, and she’s had enough. Now, as co-host of the competitive reality TV series The Next Cooking Champ!, she finally has a real shot at being top tier in the foodie scene.
Too bad her co-host happens to be Hollywood’s smarmiest jerk.

Restaurateur Leo O’Donnell never means to get under Nina’s skin. It just seems to happen, especially when the cameras are rolling. It’s part of the anxiety and stress he has come to know all too well in this line of work. So nothing prepares him for the fallout after he takes one joke a smidge too far and Nina up and quits—on live TV.

To make matters worse, the two are caught in what looks like a compromising situation by the paparazzi…and fans of the show go absolutely nuts. Turns out, a “secret romance” between Nina and Leo may just be what their careers need most.

Now all they have to do is play along, without killing each other…and without catching feelings. Easy as artisanal shepherd’s pie. Right? 

Thank you to HQN for the eARC!

DELECTABLE.

I didn’t have any wild expectations going in for this and found myself completely wrapped up this story. I wouldn’t call it enemies to lovers, but more a rival angle. There’s fantastic banter that made me laugh and were such great quips. The spark definitely ignited as Leo and Nina got to know one another.

And how did they get to know one another? FAKE DATING Y’ALL. Another beloved trope that I loved the execution of. I thought all of the dates dove deeper into each layer of their budding relationship. I liked how they got to know one another, apologize for past grievances and work together to save their restaurants.

I did find the last 10/15% a little slow. I liked that Leo’s anxiety was addressed and he was able to work on that for himself and that Nina found a new path for her career to move to. I don’t mind some time away, but it did go on just long enough that I was wondering where the grand finale was finally going to take place.

Different from a lot of books recently, this one focused on cooking over baking. I loved that and it made me continually hungry and in need of a personal chef to make some of these grand meals for me. I loved the outside plot that didn’t overtake the romance but helped push it forward. The side characters (family and friends) were wonderful and added a perfect touch too. A seriously great read and I look forward to more!

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary Romance
  • Language: some strong
  • Romance: multiple open; med/high explicit
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: anxiety, panic attacks (on page), sexism, bullying (including cyber)

AUTHOR BIO:

ERIN LA ROSA is a writer living in Los Angeles. As a writer for BuzzFeed, she frequently writes about the perils and triumphs of being a redhead. Before BuzzFeed, Erin worked for the comedy websites Funny or Die and MadAtoms, as well as E!s Fashion Police, Wetpaint, and Ecorazzi. Erin has appeared on CNN, Headline News, Jimmy Kimmel, and The Today Show on behalf of BuzzFeed. She is the author of Womanskills and The Big Redhead Book.


Author Website: https://www.erinlarosacreative.com/
IG: https://www.instagram.com/erinlarosalit/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/erinlarosalit
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/erin.larosa 
TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@erinlarosawrites

And for fun, some recipes from the chef’s themselves!

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Book Review

ARC Book Review & Blog Tour: The Dachshund Wears Prada (Paws in the City #1) by Stefanie London

Rating: ★★★☆
Audience: Contemporary Romance
Length: 336 pages
Author: Stefanie London
Publisher: HQN
Release Date: May 3rd, 2022
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

How do you start over when the biggest mistake of your life has more than one million views?

Forget diamonds—the internet is forever. Social media consultant Isla Thompson learned that lesson the hard way when she went viral for all the wrong reasons. A month later, Isla is still having nightmares about the moment she ruined a young starlet’s career and made herself the most unemployable influencer in Manhattan. But she doesn’t have the luxury of hiding until she’s no longer Instagram poison. Not when her fourteen-year-old sister, Dani, needs Isla to keep a roof over their heads. So, she takes the first job she can get: caring for Camilla, a glossy-maned, foul-tempered hellhound.

After a week of ferrying Camilla from playdates to pet psychics, Isla starts to suspect that the dachshund’s bark is worse than her bite—just like her owner, Theo Garrison. Isla has spent her career working to make people likable and here’s Theo—happy to hide behind his reputation as a brutish recluse. But Theo isn’t a brute—he’s sweet and funny, and Isla should not see him as anything but the man who signs her paychecks. Because loving Theo would mean retreating to his world of secluded luxury, and Isla needs to show Dani that no matter the risk, dreams are always worth chasing.

Thank you to the publisher for an eARC.

CHARMING.

I gratefully enjoyed this more than I hoped for, even if a few things took it down here and there.

I really liked Isla as one of the main points of view. She was optimistic and full of light. I was willingly cheering her on through the ups and downs of trying to be a good caretaker and parent to her sister and finding a new path after losing her job. Isla’s resilience knew no bounds and I was proud of what she accomplished.

Theo was the other point of view (YAY for double points of view in a romance!). More gruff around the edges and unwillingly to see past his own walls, he took some warming up to see his soft side. I ADORE the grump/sunshine trope and thought this was an excellent execution of that.

Mixed thoughts towards some of the plot. I think there was almost too much focus on other things and at times I noticed a repetitiveness to the inner dialogue about varying situations. It took me awhile to feel invested in the romance because I thought things jumped off too quickly since the focus kept turning to other matters.

The conflict had me shaking my head a bit as well. It was heavily hinted throughout buuuut still. I guess I just hoped it would work a bit differently or there’d be a spin on it that I could get behind. While that wasn’t the case, I did absolutely LOVE the grand gesture at the end and the sweetness that followed. FYI this was steamier than I expected and there’s a few scenes, easily skippable if you prefer that like me!

Also yes, the dog, Camilla, is feisty and lovable and played a good sized roll. I loved her spunky vibe and how incredibly touching she could be. Pulls at your heart strings for fellow animal lovers!

Overall audience notes:

  • Contemporary Romance
  • Language: a little strong
  • Romance: multiple open door
  • Trigger/Content Warnings: recounting loss of parents (car wreck), parental abandonment, grief, brief mention of suicide ideation, loss of a grandparent

AUTHOR BIO:

Stefanie London is a USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance. Her books have been called “genuinely entertaining and memorable” by Booklist, and her writing praised as “elegant, descriptive and delectable” by RT Magazine. Originally from Australia, she now lives in Toronto with her very own hero and is doing her best to travel the world. She frequently indulges her passions for lipstick, good coffee, books and anything zombie related.

Author Website
Instagram: @stefanielondon
Facebook: @London’s Lovelies

BUY LINKS: Bookshop.org || Harlequin || Barnes & Noble || Amazon || BAM

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blog tour, Book Review

ARC Book Review & Blog Tour: Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: Young adult fantasy
Length: 464 pages
Author: Janella Angeles
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Release Date: August 25th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.

As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.

The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost

The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told

The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide

Where Dreams Descend is the startling and romantic first book in Janella Angeles’ debut Kingdom of Cards fantasy duology where magic is both celebrated and feared, and no heart is left unscathed.

Thank you to Wednesday books for the eARC. All opinions are my own!

WONDERFUL DEBUT.

You hear this has some The Night Circus aspects and you’re immediately drawn in. I am definitely in agreement. The magician, circus, and romance aspects were soooo good. Soooo good that I can’t wait for book two. There’s a lot here to unfold!

One of my favorite pieces is that I still haven’t decided who’s on what side. The ambiguity of characters and story leave much open to interpretation (in a good way). While plenty is revealed and you’re not left hanging, I love how much isn’t revealed.

Since I’m always a fan of romance in books, I am setting sail of Kallia and Demarco’s ship. I absolutely LOVED how this relationship moved. It’s one of the textbook slow-burns that are my faaaavorite. It was believable and they have true chemistry between them. I really can’t wait to see where they move on next.

Kallia is an amazing heroine. Goodness, I thought she was spectacular. Kallia was brave and bold, confident in her abilities and was striving to better her life. She was also flawed, and got herself wrapped up in tough situations. The conflict made her seem real and truly like someone you can root for her, and root for her I did!

This book reminded me why I love reading young adult fantasy. I would love to see a map to further expound on the world, but I thought the overall development was good. The magic system was interesting and all of the mystery kept me on my toes. The atmosphere and creepy vibes were some of favorite aspects.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult fantasy
  • Language: very little light
  • Romance: kisses / make-outs
  • Violence: physical, magic, elements

Author Bio:

JANELLA ANGELES is a Filipino-American author who got her start in writing through consuming glorious amounts of fanfiction at a young age — which eventually led to penning a few of her own, and later on, creating original stories from her imagination. A lifelong lover of books, she’s lucky enough to be working in the business of publishing them on top of writing them. She currently resides in Massachusetts, where she’s most likely to be found listening to musicals on repeat and daydreaming too much for her own good. Where Dreams Descend is her first book.

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Book Review

ARC Book Review & Blog Tour: Breath Like Water by Anna Jarzab

Rating: ☆☆☆☆
Audience: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 416 pages
Author: Anna Jarzab
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Release Date: May 19th, 2020
Image & Other Reviews on: Goodreads

BOOK SUMMARY:

Susannah Ramos has always loved the water. A swimmer whose early talent made her a world champion, Susannah was poised for greatness in a sport that demands so much of its young. But an inexplicable slowdown has put her dream in jeopardy, and Susannah is fighting to keep her career afloat when two important people enter her life: a new coach with a revolutionary training strategy, and a charming fellow swimmer named Harry Matthews.

As Susannah begins her long and painful climb back to the top, her friendship with Harry blossoms into passionate and supportive love. But Harry is facing challenges of his own, and even as their bond draws them closer together, other forces work to tear them apart. As she struggles to balance her needs with those of the people who matter most to her, Susannah will learn the cost—and the beauty—of trying to achieve something extraordinary.

Thank you to Inkyard Press and Netgalley for the eARC. All opinions are my own!

DEEP WATERS.

I picked this up on a whim for a blog tour because the summary had easily pulled me in. Add in a beautiful cover and I had some raised expectations. I really did end up enjoying this book and loved the tough messages it talked about.

Harry and Susie were a great match. I liked both of their characters and the relationship between them. It was unique to most contemporaries I read that in this case, the couple actually got together before the halfway point! I loved this. Gave me a lot of time to enjoy them, watch the relationship develop and grow as the months passed. Susie was a fairly well-rounded teenage character. I appreciated that when she made mistakes, she knew when to say sorry and also really had some enlightening moments for her. I felt like I got to see her really grow up and make some hard choices and thought it all was well handled. Susie never seemed childish (like some YA book characters), but like a older teen who was going into the real world soon and had to decide what would be best for her.

At times I felt there were a few misplaced moments. Namely, the love scene. I didn’t think it worked as well as intended. I know this book was a lot about growing up, yet it didn’t need a sex scene to culminate everything. It was also placed at an odd interval. This issue aside, the overall relationship, dates, etc. between Susie and Harry were lovely.

A big component of this book was mental health. Harry and Susie had to work through mental, physical and emotional situations to overcome the pressures of life. It addressed different conditions and treatments. And while the book did feel heavy at times, it also felt hopeful, knowing the sun would shine again.

I loved Susie’s family and her friend Amber. Incredibly supportive, occasionally awkward, and all around a lovely and tight-knit group. They made me smile and added another aspect that made me love this book more.

This book may [in general] be about swimmers trying to get to the Olympics, but it holds so many more gems than that. I loved the way the Olympic Trials were written and the way the author told Susie’s story in that moment. It allowed for a beautiful sentiment in doing what’s best for you and knowing you have to take care of yourself before you can help someone else.

Overall audience notes:

  • Young adult contemporary romance
  • Language: a little
  • Romance: kisses / make-outs; one love scene (very little detail, mostly a fade-to-black scene)
  • Trigger warnings: bipolar disorder, self-harm (specifically cutting), depression, anxiety, and verbally abusive coach

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